Statutory Maternity Pay is a payment made by employers to their employees, so self-employed workers will not be eligible for this. However, self-employed mums (and mums-to-be) may be eligible to receive Maternity Allowance from the government instead.
What is Maternity Allowance and who is Eligible?
Maternity Allowance is an allowance that the government pays to eligible new mothers, who are not entitled to receive Statutory Maternity Pay. It is paid every 2 or 4 weeks, and payments can start up to 11 weeks before the baby is due.
Those who may be entitled to Maternity Allowance include:
- Those who are employed but are not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay
- Those who have recently stopped working
- Those who are self-employed and pay Class 2 National Insurance
To be eligible for Maternity Allowance, new mothers need to meet certain criteria. Firstly, they must have been either employed or self-employed for at least 26 of the 66 weeks before their due date. Periods of unemployment or changes in jobs won't necessarily disqualify someone from their Maternity Allowance entitlement. Secondly, they must have been earning at least £30 per week in at least 13 of those weeks (these weeks don't need to be consecutive).
For a self-employed worker to be eligible for Maternity Allowance, they must also have paid Class 2 National Insurance for at least 33 of the 66 weeks before their due date. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will check if enough Class 2 National Insurance has been paid, and if it hasn't they'll write to the applicant to notify them of this.
There is a reduced rate of Maternity Allowance though, which the individual may still be eligible for if they aren't entitled to the full amount (more on this below). Alternatively, it may also be possible to qualify for the full rate by making early National Insurance payments. HM Revenue & Customs will provide more information on this if applicable.
Maternity Allowance Rates
Not everyone who is entitled to Maternity Allowance will necessarily be entitled to the same amount. There are 3 rates of Maternity Allowance, and the amount that an individual will receive will depend on their eligibility.
The three rates of Maternity Allowance are:
- The lower of either £148.68 per week or 90% of the individual's average weekly earnings, which will be paid for 39 weeks
- £27 per week, which will be paid for 39 weeks
- £27 per week, which will be paid for 14 weeks
If a self-employed worker doesn't meet the eligibility criteria for the first rate (which is the full rate of Maternity Allowance) they may still be entitled to one of the reduced rates.
It's important to bear in mind that receipt of Maternity Allowance can impact on how much is received for some other benefits, and will also be included in the benefit cap. Anyone who is in receipt of other benefits should check this before applying for Maternity Allowance, so they know exactly what they'll receive.
If you're employed either full or part-time by an employer, then you may be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay instead. Mothers and pregnant workers are also protected from discrimination at work, as maternity is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.